From the archive: Project Victor
I’m revisiting an old post I made about three years ago, mainly because it is such an awesome story. About Sara, and a long running joke she would make every year for her birthday, and how finally, three years ago, something interesting happened with a chance encounter and a Hasselblad camera.
I’m also posting this story again because out here in World-Wide-Interweb-Land there are lots of murmur’s of a film resurgence going on. People starting to pick up film cameras again and starting to shoot. I’m using this revisit as an excuse to get my film cameras back into the camera bag and start shooting with them again.
Sara had been asking for a Hasselblad camera for as long as I’ve known her. The idea of owning the Rolls Royce of cameras would send shivers down her spine and get her giggly whenever she talked about them.
One of the ongoing jokes was each June when her birthday rolled around, she jokingly would ask for a Hassie for her birthday, knowing that we could never afford one.
I had spent about a year helping out a local camera store a few days a week back in 2007/2008. A few months before her birthday, an older gentleman came into the store and was talking to the owner, who knew about our little ongoing joke. While eavesdropping on their conversation, I heard the word “Hassleblad” and then, “Hey, Sid, come over here for a minute” and I was introduced to John. John is 85 and he’s been working on Hasselblad’s for most of his life. I tell him how Sara really wanted one and how it would be great to finally surprise her with one of these cameras someday. We chat a little more and John says “well, I’ve got some parts at home. Lemme see what I can put together that might make her happy.” and he leaves.
A few days later, he comes walking into the camera shop with a Hasselblad C/M kit and explains to me that while the film back is some twenty years older than the body, everything was double checked and cleaned and in tip top shape and that since Sara is a lovely lady and loves photography and has been asking for one for so long, I could have it for $200.
At which I jumped on as soon as I picked up my jaw from the floor.
After I gave John the money and he left, the owner of the camera store told me to look up his full name on the internets, which I did, and it turns out that John is actually John Kovacs, who was one of the original group of technicians that worked on the NASA modification of Hasselblad equipment for the Space Program, and was one of the original Hasselblad technicians trained in Sweden many many years ago.
It also turns out that he is the patent holder for the workings that enable multiple exposures on cameras with a film-back mechanism.
So, not only did I get to present Sara with a fantastic condition C/M camera, but it was also put together by the guy that worked on the cameras that went into space for the first flight to the Moon.
. . . A few days later, after finding out the cameras he touched took a trip up to the moon, John came back in the store, and I asked him about this.
“Yeah,” he said. “Fu*king Neil Armstrong couldn’t operate the camera with his big stupid moon gloves on, so I had to create a big dumb button that he could bang to take the exposure.”
It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard
I love this story. I love that John was moved that Sara and I met in college, both loved photography, and that he offered up this camera; one of the last cameras he worked on before he retired from the camera repair business.
While moving some things around at the studio the other week, the Hassie was sitting there, amid the other camera bodies and lenses, and still looked elegant and regal. I took it out and pawed it over for a few minutes, and then promised myself that I’m going to use it more. I’ll put it in my camera bag and during shoots with clients I’ll try my best to take it out at the end of a session and go through a roll of film. Simply because I shouldn’t forget my roots. Simply because it is an incredible piece of photographic machinery. Because it has special meaning, and because it was touched and cared for by the man that sent cameras up to the moon.
I can’t wait to start shooting with it again.
more info about John’s patent here:
And while we’re talking about Hasselblad, check out this great project of how to build your own working paper Hasselblad camera